Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Hassan Sheibani

About

Age: 55
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Execution: January 8, 1993
Location: Birjand, Khorasan, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging

Human rights violations in this case

The Legal Context

The Courts

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 11 February 1979-1994

 

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 February 1979 Revolution, an ad hoc tribunal, initially referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, was set up to try the officials of the previous regime, for which no specific procedures were devised. In a decree dated 24 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary religious leader, appointed a cleric as Shari’a Judge and instructed him “to issue Shari’a-based rulings,” thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts.

 

Initially, the revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of the Shari’a (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars. On 17 June 1979, the Revolutionary Courts and the Prosecutor’s Office Rules of Procedure, which was only selectively observed, established the latter’s jurisdiction and make-up.

 

The Courts’ jurisdiction encompassed a wide array of offenses including moharebeh (“waging war with God”), efsad e fel arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), crimes against national and international security, economic crimes, murder, profiteering, prostitution, rape, and narcotic drugs-related crimes. The law required that two of the three principal members of the Revolutionary Courts be Shari’a judges.

 

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 1994-2002

 

With the adoption of the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994, and the Code of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts of 19 September 1999, a uniform code of procedure was applied to both revolutionary and general courts. The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts was limited to 6 categories of offenses:

1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh” (enmity with god) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth;)

2. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;

3. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;

4. espionage;

5. smuggling and drug-related crimes; 6. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.

 6. Furthermore, pursuant to the Law on the Manner of Punishing Individuals Engaged in Unauthorized Audio and Visual Activities, Article 11, the revolutionary courts have jurisdiction over crimes that fall within the purview of said Law, including production and distribution of obscene materials and misuse and abuse thereof.

These courts continued, however, to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as theft and sexual offenses. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allowed the revolutionary courts to try political and media crimes whenever they wished to do so.

 

The new law eliminated the Prosecutor’s Office and gave the judges inthe Revolutionary Courts the power to perform the duties of the prosecutor, as well as their own, in any case brought before them.

 

Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 2002-Present

 

The Amended Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 2002 reinstated the Prosecutor’s Office in both revolutionary and general courts. In cases involving political and media crimes, revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction overlaps with that of Province Criminal Courts.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014, and its coming into force in June 2015, the jurisdiction of the revolutionary courts remains unchanged, with slight modifications in procedural aspects of adjudication. For instance, the new law provides that for crimes subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, or higher, the revolutionary court shall convene with three judges, whereas, prior to the passage of this law, adjudication of all crimes within the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts took place with only a single judge.

The Appellate System of Revolutionary Courts, 1979-Present

 

From their inception until 1994, the rulings of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. In the early 1980s a court entitled the Supreme Court of Qom was established in the city of Qom and which reviewed cases of execution and confiscation of properties, thereby forming a first tier form of appeal. The exact date of the creation of the court is not clear, but, based on available information, the court became operational in the early 1980s, even though Ayatollah Khomeini's official order for its creation is dated 1985. The court’s procedure was not systematic and did not meet the international standards for a court of appeals; there was no official record of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Qom was dissolved in 1989.

 

The Law of 14 June 1994 subjected the Courts’ decisions to appeal. An appellate court was established at each provincial capital, called the Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by the Revolutionary Courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those involving capital punishment.

 

Narcotic drugs-related crimes constitute a significant exception to the appeals process. Governed by the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Law of 1988, as Amended on 8 November 1997 and 31 July 3 2010, these crimes are within the jurisdiction of, and are adjudicated on a regular basis by, Revolutionary Courts whose decisions are final. After being handed down by the judge, death sentences are sent to the Prosecutor General or the Head of the Supreme Court as a matter of administrative approval.

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 (and its coming into force in June 2015), however, drug related crimes became subject to appeal as well.

General Courts, 1979-1982

 

In cases not falling under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, the system devised under the previous regime continued to function in parallel with new systems devised by laws passed by the Judicial Council, one of which, entitled The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, radically changed the entire structure and categorization of the courts. It divided the courts in three branches: Criminal, Civil, and Peace (a sort of arbitration court dealing with minor financial and other disputes). Specialized courts such as family courts were eliminated.

 

General Courts, 1982-1994

 

The Law of the Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure of 1982 established a new criminal courts system, Criminal Courts I and II. Criminal Court I, established only in provincial capitals, had jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Criminal Court II heard less serious crimes.

 

General Courts, 1994-2002

 

The Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994 established umbrella courts called General Courts, which replaced and dissolved pre-existing civil and criminal courts. The law dissolved the Prosecutor’s offices and tasked a single person with the roles of judge, prosecutor, and investigator.

 

General Courts, 2002-2015

 

In 2002, the 1994 Law was amended, reviving the role of the Prosecutor’s Office in General Courts. The prosecution offices were re-established in a gradual process over several years. The amended law also re-established specialized branches within general courts dealing separately with criminal and civil matters. In addition, this law allocated a number of branches of the Province Court of Appeals to have original jurisdiction over a number of cases including the most serious offenses, as well as political and media crimes. In these cases, the branches are called the Province Criminal Court.

 

General Courts, 2015 to Today

 

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, general courts underwent certain changes as well. Criminal courts were divided into Criminal Court One, Criminal Court Two, Military Court, Juvenile Court, and Revolutionary Court. Criminal Court One has jurisdiction over serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, and higher, as well as political and media crimes. Criminal Court Two has jurisdiction over other crimes. Another change consists of the establishment of juvenile courts, which adjudicates crimes committed by individuals less than 18 years of age. In cases where the individuals less than 18 commit serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, however, Criminal Court One will have jurisdiction, observing rules of juvenile criminal procedure.

 

The Appellate System of General Courts, 1979-Present

 

The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, abolished appeal of most criminal courts’ decisions. The law of 1982 restricted the appeal possibility even further. According to the Islamic Republic authorities’ interpretation of Islamic Law, a qualified jurist’s decisions were not subject to appeal except under special circumstances, such as when the judge realized his own mistake, or another judge advised him so, or when he did not have jurisdiction over the case. Even in such situations, the case would not go to a higher court but would be subject to review by the same judge or another judge at his level. The judges were even urged to call their verdicts “opinions,” so that the possible change in the verdict would not be “haram” (“sinful,” the highest level of prohibition in Islam, disobedience of which would result in a sin).

 

In October 1988, the Majles (Iranian parliament) passed a law regarding review of court judgments. This law provided for an appeal if the conviction was claimed to be based on invalid documentation or false testimony. The defendant could also base an appeal on a point of law or a procedural violation.

 

The appellate system was expanded in other laws in the late 1980s and in 1993. The Law for the Establishment of Criminal Courts I and II of 11 July 1989 created the Branches of the Supreme Court. Crimes of less importance, tried in Criminal Court II, were subject to review by Criminal Court I.

 

For the most important crimes involving death punishment, which were under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court I, the law allowed limited appeal to the Branches of the Supreme Court. Defendants had the right to petition the Supreme Court for appeal in certain cases involving false testimony or procedural violations, and if granted, the case would be remanded to either another criminal court or the original one.

 

Finally, the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 1994, as amended in 2002, established an appellate court at each provincial capital, called Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by both general and revolutionary courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those carrying the death penalty, as well as decisions made by the Province Criminal Court.

 

The amended law of 2002, continued the appellate procedure to the Branches of the Supreme Court established by the afore-mentioned law of 11 July 1989

 

The Supreme Court continues to be the competent authority to rule on new trials, which have been provided for in limited circumstances.

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, the Court of Appeals shall be the competent authority to hear appeals from Criminal Court Two decisions, and the Supreme Court shall hear appeals from Criminal Court One decisions.

Special Courts for the Clergy

 

These courts are rooted in a 1979 decree, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which established a committee of religious and noble figures in every region to purge the clergy of anti-revolutionary elements under the supervision of the Revolutionary Courts. Between late 1981 and 1984, a special court in the city of Qom handled, though not systematically, the trial of clerics.

 

On 29 July 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini officially appointed a prosecutor and a member of the clergy as Shari’a judge for Special Courts for the Clergy. On 6 August 1990, a directive was issued regulating the conduct of these courts, the jurisdictional ambiguity of which is such that it effectively extends to “anyone where one of the parties is a cleric” and to “all matters in which the Court is designated as competent by the Supreme Leader.”

 

The court, which was not mentioned in the Islamic Republic's constitution, was mandated to try “pseudo clerics, those related to/connected with the clergy, for public and/or anti-revolutionary crimes, and violations of the prestige of the clergy,” and where the principal suspect is a member of the clergy, “any co-conspirator or assistant, whether a cleric or not.”

 

These courts are generally not open to the public and can issue sentences for all acts and omissions punishable under codified Iranian laws or Shari’a or for any other acts or omissions which can bring dishonor to the clergy or to the Islamic Revolution. Further, in certain particular cases – which have not been defined – where no punishment has been devised by either the Penal Code or even the Shari’a, the Court “can rule as it deems fit.” 

 

The Appellate System of the Special Court for the Clergy, 1979-Present

 

There is no information on any appeal process for the Special Court for the Clergy prior to the 1990 directive. Article 49 of said directive set up, however, an appeals court called Special Appellate Court for the Clergy, the head of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to which the decisions of the lower court can be appealed.

 

Military Courts

 

The military court system, independent from the judiciary under the previous regime, became a part of it on 1 December 1981. The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces, established in 1986, replaced and merged other military courts and tribunals in existence at the time, namely the pre-revolution Judiciary Organization of the Army, the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Army (established on 8 December 1979), and the Revolutionary and General Court for the Revolutionary Guards (established on 15 July 1979.) The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces has its own Criminal Code and follows the country’s general rules of criminal procedure.

 

The Law of the Criminal Procedure of the Armed Forces of 15 May 1985 created Military Courts I and II. Military Court I has jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Military Court II hears less serious crimes.

 

The Appellate System of Military Courts, 1979-Present

 

The law of 8 December 1979, establishing the Revolutionary Military Court, did not provide for any appeals. The Law of 15 May 1985 created a system of appeals through the creation of a two-tier system of courts. The decisions of Military Court II were subject to review by Military Court I. This law also provided that multiple Branches of the Supreme Court be designated as the appellate court to review decisions of Military Court I.

 

The judges

 

1979-1997: Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily law graduates and jurists. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, a five-member Committee was established to purge the judicial system of undesirable elements, pursuant to the Legal Bill for the Modification of the Judiciary and the Law for Hiring Judges of 8 March 1979. The power of the committee was absolute and its decisions, resulting in a widespread purge of the judiciary, final.

 

The Law for the Conditions of Selection of Judges of 4 May 1981 established the conditions of eligibility for judges. The latter were to be hired among men who were legitimate children and had practical commitment to Islam and allegiance to the Islamic Republic. The law, which led to the hiring of clerics and Islamic legal scholars, also allowed hiring practically anyone as a judge who could “obtain the Judicial High Council’s permission.” Moreover, Note 2 of the Amendments of 4 October 1982 to this law allowed widespread employment of seminary students “who ha[d] general knowledge equivalent to a high school diploma” as judges at prosecutor’s offices in general as well as Revolutionary Courts.  

 

By 1989, the judiciary counted about 2,000 new judges trained in theological seminaries (graduates and students) and political appointees, many having replaced judges trained in law schools.

 

1997-Present: As of this writing (2013) the Law for Hiring Judges and its amendments of 4 October 1982, 7 February 1987, and 9 May 1988 are in full force and form the basis for hiring judges. The Executive Rules of Procedure of 22 December 1997 subjected such hiring to passing an entrance examination and successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the duration of which ranges between one and two years. The law does not limit hiring to men only but does not specify in what capacity women will be functioning, other than an advisory one.

Currently, judges are selected in accordance with the Guidelines on the Recruitment, Selection, and Internship for Judicial Candidates and the Hiring of Judges.

 

Dismissal of Judges: From 1979 to 1989, the judiciary was run by the Supreme Judicial Council which was composed of the head of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General (both of whom were appointed by the Supreme Leader), and three judges elected by the entire body of judges in the country. The Council had the power to hire and dismiss judges in accordance with the law.

 

The constitutional reforms of 1989 substituted the Supreme Judicial Council with one person, the Head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader, whose mandate is not subject to popular vote, appoints the Head of the Judiciary for a 5-year term. The latter has significant power to influence the dismissal of judges. Dismissal cases are referred to three types of disciplinary courts, presided over by judges appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, who has veto power over any decisions made by the relevant courts.

 

Two of these courts, established in 1991 and 2011, are charged with examining the judges’ conduct from a religious and ideological standpoint. The process does not necessarily involve the defendant and the final decision, left to the Head of the Judiciary, is not subject to appeal.

 

Detentions, interrogations, and trials: 1989-1993

Pre-trial detentions

The accused, including political dissidents, were arrested and detained for months without trial, and sometimes without being informed of the charges against them. Detainees were routinely subjected to torture in order to coerce confessions of guilt. A single individual, the judge, was in charge of both the investigation and the interrogation.

Trials

Trials, particularly in the cases of prisoners of opinion, were held in camera. Despite the fact that a 1991 law authorized the presence of a defense attorney, there was no evidence that defendants were permitted access to legal counsel.

Appeal processes

The judgment of the revolutionary court was not subject to appeal. A 1988 law gave defendants tried by penal courts a right to appeal to the Supreme Court in certain circumstances, such as in cases of false testimony or procedural violations. However, if the appeal was accepted, the case was retried by the penal court--not a higher court. Executions were often carried out shortly after the judgment.

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, some or all of the following human rights may have been violated in this case:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.

    UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.

  • The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade union for the protection of one’s interests.

    UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.

The right to due process

Pre-trial detention rights

  • The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.

    UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a

  • The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1 , Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.b; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8

  • The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.

  • The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    UDHR, Article 5; ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1, and Article 2.

Trial rights

  • The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

    ICCPR, Article 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

  • The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.

  • ICCPR, Article 14.3.e.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

    ICCPR, Article 14.1.

Judgment rights

  • The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

    ICCPR, Article 14.5.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

    ICCPR, Article 6.4.

Capital punishment
  • The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

    ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

About this Case

Information regarding Mr. Hassan Sheibani’s case was drawn from two electronic forms, death certificate, court documents, letters and other documents sent to Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) by a person close to Mr. Sheibani.

Mr. Sheibani was born to a feudal family on 2 January 1938 in Mazhan, a village in Birjand, currently located in Northern Khorasan Province. His family had a history of political activism and a portion of their properties had been confiscated at the onset of the Islamic Revolution. Upon finishing his primary school education, he completed two years of legal training at the Military High School and received a law license. Mr. Sheibani was a warrant officer in the Gendarmerie (a military force charged with police duties.) In 1979, while travelling from Mashhad to Birjand, he was arrested in Gha’en (a small town in Khorasan province) based on a warrant issued by the Revolutionary Committee of Torbatheidarieh, served by the Qa’en Gendamerie, citing a car accident as the reason. He was subsequently held as an “anti-revolutionary” with two death row prisoners at the Melli Bank of Torbatheidarieh building. He was released in July 1979 after numerous correspondences with Mehdi Bazargan, the then Prime Minister. According to the individual close to Mr. Sheibani, the [real] reason for this arrest was [certain] officials’ personal enmity with him, stemming from an incident in 1976, during his tenure. There is no further information about this incident or the charges brought against Mr. Sheibani.

In 1980 (after the Revolution), Mr. Sheibani was appointed Commander of the Anti-Narcotic Drugs within the Birjand regiment in southern Khorasan Province. In the same year or a year later, however, he was forced into compulsory retirement after 22 years of service, by the Purge Committee of the Military.

In 1982, Mr. Sheibani was arrested once again by order of the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office of Birjand. It is not clear what the reasons for this arrest were. According to the information sent to ABF, however, the charge brought against Mr. Sheibani was related to the commission of anti-revolutionary crimes. He was first taken to the Ministry of Intelligence Prison and then to Shahrbani Prison. He was released on bail after 9 months and given a one week leave, due to the death of his daughter. During his leave, he sent a letter to Ayatollah Khomeini detailing the illegal actions of the Birjand Prosecutor. The letter contained statement to the effect that “you can export the revolution to the Horn of Africa (meaning to the farthest and most unlikely places on the planet), but if there is no justice in Iran itself, you have failed.” After this letter and upon Ayatollah Khomein’s Decree known as the “Decree of Eight Articles”, the Birjand Prosecutor was dismissed and Mr. Sheibani did not return to prison.

Mr. Sheibani was arrested once more in 1984 by order of the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office of Birjand for following up on his 1982 case, and was released on bail two months later. Since, at the time, the Iranian Bar Association was practically closed down and there were no attorneys in Birjand, Mr. Sheibani, who was well-versed in the law (because of his interest as well as his having studied the subject matter), worked as a lawyer in an unofficial capacity, after his retirement. He had tried to prevent his clients’ rights from being violated. , This turned him into a well-known and popular figure, as attested to by the large number of people attending his funeral in spite of a government ban to do so.

Arrest and detention

By order of the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office of Birjand, Mr. Sheibani was arrested by [members of] the Intelligence Branch of the Revolutionary Guards, at 11 am on 24 December 1985 in Khosf, a village 35 kilometers from Birjand . In winter 1986-87 he escaped from prison and went to Mashhad, he and remained in hiding in Mashhad, Shiraz and Tehran. He was identified and arrested, along with his son, in May 1987 at Rahahan Circle in Tehran by the Intelligence Branch of Birjand Revolutionary Guards, and taken to Qasr Prison. Upon being interrogated, he was transferred to Birjand. In 1987, he was transferred from Birjand Shahrbani Prison to The Revolutionary Committee’s Prison in Birjand. In 1990, he was transferred to Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad where he spent one month prior to his execution. Mr. Sheibani escaped prison again in 1991 but he was rearrested three days later near the Iran-Afghanistan border. He was finally taken to Birjand to carry out the sentence.

According to people close to him, Mr. Sheibani was in detention and under interrogation for 7 years, during which he was denied access to a lawyer with the exception of a very short period. However, Mr. Sheibani managed to write some notes on the back of his dirty laundry which he used to send out of prison to wash, in which he explained prison conditions and his trial. He spent most of his prison time in solitary confinement. His visitations with his family were sporadic and at the whim of prison officials. These visitations took place in the detention center boiler room and in the presence of a prison guard. This room was divided into two by a three-layered chicken fence that separated the visitors from the inmate. Being deprived of visitations had a devastating effect on Mr. Sheibani’s spirit. Also, he was under constant physical and psychological pressure. In one of his letters dated 7 September 1987, he wrote: “I will not live long…There is no doctor here, no bath, no tea, little food and the visitations are erratic.” The pressure in prison was so unbearable that at one point on 27 July 1987, Mr. Sheibani attempted suicide with electroshock.

In another instance, Mr. Sheibani was transferred from Shahrbani Prison to the Revolutionary Committee’s Prison in Birjand on 21 July 1987, blindfolded. There, the revolutionary guards and the warden beat him and torture him so many times that in one of his letters, he complained of severe pain and loss of hearing. Not only did prison officials deny him medical care, but they also transferred him to an underground cell, while he was in very poor physical condition, and cancelled his visitations. In his letter dated 7 September 1987 he wrote about this incident: “File a complaint saying that your father is an old man who suffers from heart and kidney disease, asthma and psychological problems, and that he was transferred from Birjand Shahrbani Prison to the Revolutionary Committee’s Prison just to harass him physically and psychologically; that he has been subjected to very harsh restrictions which are unbearable for an old man and that he is being kept in solitary confinement where he is deprived of medical care, a bath, and visitations…” Mr. Sheibani once asked his family to convince the officials to give him covered container to urinate in and a pitcher to drink water, since all of his belongings had been taken away from him. Mr. Sheibani and his family submitted numerous complaints of his mistreatment and torture in prison, to no avail. For instance, on 27 January 1986, Mr. Sheibani wrote a letter to the Warden of the Revolutionary Committee’s Prison of Birjand and complained about his undesirable prison condition and his deprivation of visitations with his family. Further, on 7 August 1987, he brought up his complaint before the Revolutionary Prosecutor of Birjand, who ignored it. The family’s numerous other complaints either never bore fruit, or did not have a practical effect on his condition in prison.

Trial

In his letter dated 27 July 1987, Mr. Sheibani informed his family of a trial which had taken place on 22 and 25 July 1987 at the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office of Birjand headquarters.

According to persons close to Mr. Sheibani, he was tried for the last time in 1991. No further information is available regarding this trial.

Charges

According to the documents sent to ABF, Mr. Sheibani was charged with “connection with counter-revolutionary [elements], enticing people against the settlement of Afghans, creating havoc, [instigating] prostitution and murder of a woman named Ozra Khavari”

According to people close to Mr. Sheibani, the above-mentioned woman had filed a complaint against him to the effect that “he had temporarily married me (“Siqeh” or the concept of temporary marriage for a pre-determined time and a pre-determined fee) in 1977 and although I am his wife he forces me into prostitution.” After Mr. Sheibani’s escape from prison in 1986, Ms. Khavari’s body was found and he was charged with her murder.

Regarding the counter-revolutionary offenses, people close to Mr. Sheibani told ABF that he had been arrested during a protest against the resettlement of the Afghan immigrants in Sarparch settlement near Khosf, and that was the reason he was convicted of enticing people to riot.

Evidence of guilt

No information is available concerning the evidence presented against the accused. In his last letter to his family, Mr. Khavari named a number of individuals whose statements played a role in finding him guilty, but were apparently not present at the trial to testify against him.

Defense

No information is available concerning Mr. Sheibani’s defense but there are a number of issues concerning the trial that create substantial doubts as to whether the standards of due process of law were respected in his case:

1. According to people close to Mr. Sheibani, Ms. Ozra Khavari sued Mr. Sheibani at the instigation of the security forces. Moreover, Mr. Sheibani, while escaping to Mashhad, could not have been at Khosf, the location of the murder, which was 35 kilometers in the opposite direction. ABF does not have any further information on this escape. As for the demonstrations against the resettlement of the Afghan immigrant, it is said that Mr. Sheibani was there to bring back his son who had gone to watch the protests.

2. There is evidence in the case that creates doubts as to whether the Revolutionary Court judge was impartial. In his letter dated 27 July 1987, Mr. Sheibani wrote: “The trial session was not legitimate and the legal and religious standards were not respected. The Prosecutor was acting as if he were the presiding judge; he and the [investigating judge] were running the trial.” He added: “It was clear from the [presiding judge’s] behavior that he had been provoked against me because he was not interested in hearing my defense.”

3. Not only was Mr. Sheibani not given a chance to effectively defend himself but, on the contrary, it seems that he was actively denied the right and the opportunity to do so. He mentions in one of his letters that “They took me from Shahrbani prison to the Revolutionary Committee’s Prison to torture me and take away the ability to defend myself. They canceled my visitations in order for you not to become aware of my trial and not to deliver the [necessary] documents to me.” In addition, an official declaration by Mr. Sheibani’s wife addressed to the Chief of the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Headquarters located in the Revolutionary Committee of Birjand, was sent to ABF which indicates that a briefcase containing documents necessary for Mr. Sheibani’s defense, was delivered to the Revolutionary Committee’s Prison on the morning of 3 February 1986 but was never turned over to him and consequently, Mr. Sheibani was deprived of the necessary means to defend himself. The response to this assertion was that, because Mr. Sheibani’s case was at the Revolutionary Court, it was the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence who retrieved the afore-mentioned briefcase from the guards, and this does not concern the Revolutionary Committee. In addition, Mr. Sheibani’s wife sued one of the Revolutionary Guards’ officials for embezzlement, in order to retrieve the documents, but this complaint was dismissed for “lack of evidence” in a decision rendered by the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office of Birjand on 9 March 1987. Further, in a letter to the Revolutionary Prosecutor of Birjand dated 25 January 1986, Mr. Sheibani himself on requested that the briefcase be returned to him; there was apparently no response to this letter either.

Also, after his first trial in 1987, prison official made prison conditions so hard for Mr. Sheibani that in his letter of 27 July 1987 to his family, he wrote that he could not send his last defense to the court from prison under those circumstances, and asked his family to request the president of the court to summon him instead. It is not clear whether he was actually summoned to court or not.

4. His first trial at the Revolutionary Court was conducted without an attorney. According to Mr. Sheibani, a court-appointed lawyer was designated for him only in the 1991 trial.

Judgment

According to the information sent to ABF, Mr. Sheibani was executed in Birjand on 8 Jan 1993 in the presence of the officials. In his death certificate the cause of death was declared as “hanging”. People close to Mr. Sheibani reported to ABF that according to eye-witnesses, when they wanted to serve him with the court’s decision, he wrote under the verdict: “this judgment is illegal and I don’t accept it.”

Mr. Sheibani left a will in which he said goodbye, gave his heirs some advice, and instructions about his financial matters, then added: “At this moment that the death is only steps from me, I am calm and I don’t feel the slightest shiver or fear and I am totally in control of myself…I wish a happy life and destiny for all of my children and I emphasize once again that I am innocent of the charges…”

During the years Mr. Sheibani was in prison and even after his execution, his family was pressured and harassed by the officials in different ways. For example, his children were deprived of higher education and banned from management positions. In 1986 when Mr. Sheibani escaped from prison, his wife and son were arrested and his two minor children were left alone without supervision. After Mr. Sheibani’s death, the Ministry of Intelligence ordered the municipality of Khosf to demolish their house and to sell the land to Basij.

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